new wine in old wineskins ; new wine in old bottles; old wine in new wineskins; old wine in new bottles

new wine in old wineskins
new wine in old bottles

to present a new idea as if it were old or traditional

old wine in new wineskins
old wine in new bottles

to present an old idea as if it were new and original
—When the editors decided to switch the newspaper from print to online, they promised an improvement in content, but I think it’s just old wine in new wineskins.

When some followers of John the Baptist asked Jesus why his disciples did not follow the Jewish practice of frequent fasting, Jesus replied that his new message could not be limited by old traditions. He said this using some images familiar to his audience:

No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, because the patch will pull away from the garment and the tear will be worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins [new wine into old bottles]; otherwise the skins burst and the wine is spilled out and the skins are destroyed. Instead they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16,17)

While the King James translation has the wine stored in “bottles,” more modern translations replace bottles with wineskins. The meaning is that a leather bag, when it becomes old and stiff, can no longer be used to hold new wine, because the fermenting wine will burst the container. While putting “old wine in new wineskins” wouldn’t be a problem, that variation has become a phrase in modern English as well.

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